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• There is no evidence Walmart has links to kidnappings or child sex trafficking.
• Walmart says the rumors are “simply untrue” and said the high prices that prompted suspicion were mistakes.
• A similar hoax about the online furniture store Wayfair was debunked last July.
The conspiracy theories that once surrounded online furniture retailer Wayfair have latched onto a new target: Walmart.
Social media users have been circulating the idea that high-priced shoes on Walmart.com indicate a criminal operation is underway.
"If y’all think for a second that Walmart ain’t a part of this sh-t, y’all got another thing coming," reads a Facebook post implicating one of the nation’s largest retailers. "These people own every store literally and they are kidnapping kids."
Along with the text, the post also includes a TikTok video, in which a man walks viewers through the conspiracy while a Walmart.com background reflects his narration.
"Go to Walmart.com, their website, and type in ‘girls shoes $5,000,’" the man says, before saying that the high-priced shoes are all either out of stock or have only one pair left. "I don’t know about y’all, but… I ain’t never bought a $5,000 pair of shoes." The video settles on one pair of Sam Edelman heels. "Look at this one — new nude baby."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
There is no evidence to support the conspiracy theory that Walmart is kidnapping children or selling kids on its website.
A Walmart spokesperson dismissed it.
The claim relates to items on Walmart Marketplace, a part of Walmart.com where outside sellers offer goods. Marketplace sellers manage their own inventory, pricing, order-fulfillment and customer service, but they sell through Walmart.com.
"Our investigations team looked into each of these items and contacted the sellers, and they appear to be simple errors by legitimate marketplace sellers," the Walmart spokesperson said. "Any allegation to the contrary is simply untrue."
The Sam Edelman Jaina New Nude Baby Leopard Brahma Hair heels from the video are now listed at $77.97, instead of $5,000.
This is not the first time claims surrounding Walmart and child trafficking have been debunked by fact-checking outlets. And a similar human trafficking hoax about Wayfair went viral and was repeatedly debunked last July.
Child sex trafficking claims have garnered support and been amplified by followers of the QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories several times over the past few years.
Social media posts claim that Walmart is "kidnapping kids" and selling them on Walmart.com under the guise of high-priced shoes.
There is no evidence to support these claims. A Walmart spokesperson denied the allegations and said an investigation into the items in question revealed the prices that raised concern appeared to be "simple errors."
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, Aug. 23, 2021
TikTok video, Aug. 22, 2021
Emailed statement from Walmart spokesperson, Aug. 26, 2021
PolitiFact, "How the Wayfair child sex-trafficking conspiracy theory went viral," July 15, 2020
Reuters, "Fact check: No evidence linking Wayfair to human trafficking operation," July 13, 2020
Reuters, "Fact Check-High children’s clothing prices due to seller error, Walmart explains," Aug. 12, 2021
USA Today, "Fact check: Home goods retailer Wayfair is not involved in child sex trafficking," July 23, 2020
Walmart.com, "Sam Edelman Jaina New Nude Baby Leopard Brahma Hair," accessed Aug. 29, 2021
Insider, "How the Wayfair human-trafficking conspiracy theory grew out of QAnon," July 13, 2020
Walmart Marketplace, accessed Aug. 30, 2021
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